The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz
As if there could be a world
Of absolute innocence
In which we forget ourselves
The owners throw sticks
And half-bald tennis balls
Toward the surf
And the happy dogs leap after them
As if catapulted –
Black dogs, tan dogs,
Tubes of glorious muscle –
More then obedience
They race, skid to a halt in the wet sand,
Sometimes they’ll plunge straight into
The foaming breakers
Like diving birds, letting the jade turbulence
Toss them, until they snap and sink
Teeth into floating wood
Then bound back to their owners
Shining wet, with passsionate speed
For absolutely nothing but joy.
Middle-Aged Woman at a Pond
The first of June, grasses already tall
In which I lie with a book. All afternoon a cardinal
Has thrown the darts of his song.
One lozenge of sun remains on the pond,
The high crowns of the beeches have been transformed
By a stinging honey. Tell me, I think.
Frogspawn floats in its translucent sacs.
Tadpoles rehearse their crawls.
Here come the blackflies now,
And now the peepers. This is the nectar
In the bottom of the cup,
This blissfulness in which I strip and dive.
Let my questions stand unsolved
Like trees around a pond. Water’s cold lick
Is a response. I swim across the ring of it.
The Window, At The Moment Of Flame
And all this while I have been playing with toys
A toy power station a toy automobile a house of blocks
And all this while far off in other lands
Thousands and thousands, millions and millions –
You know – you see the pictures
Women carrying their bony infants
Men sobbing over graves
Buildings sculpted by explosion
Earth wasted bare and rotten –
And all this while I have been shopping, I have
Been let us say free
And do they hate me for it
Do they hate me
Coda: Into the Street
(for Gerald Stern)
Here comes the sun again
Reminding everyone to rise and shine
So we pour the coffee and hear the news,
We pick up the paper and sigh like arthritic dogs,
And we might like to blow our exasperated
Brains out, when we think about the world,
Then again we might laugh ourselves silly,
Figure out how to profit by it
Or wonder how to love it anyway,
This is what freedom and consciousness are for.
As if we are standing on the roof
Of a very tall tower
Looking at the complicated view,
Then taking the elevator,
Going out into the street,
Alicia Ostriker is a major American poet and critic. Twice nominated for a National Book Award, she is author of eleven volumes of poetry, Ostriker’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Nation, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, and many other journals, and have been widely anthologized. Her poetry and essays have been translated into French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew and Arabic.
She has lectured and given performances of her work throughout the USA, as well as in Europe, Australia, Israel, Japan and China. She lives in Princeton, NJ with her husband. Ostriker is Professor Emerita of Rutgers University and is a faculty member of the New England College Low-Residency Poetry MFA Program. Ostriker has taught in the Princeton University Creative Writing Program and in Toni Morrison’s Atelier Program. She has taught midrash writing workshops in the USA, Israel, England and Australia.